§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR WILLIAM GIBSON CRAIG moved the Second Reading of this Bill, which he said was approved of by the late Government, but he understood that some part of it would be resisted by Her Majesty's present Advisers. He hoped the Government would now state what their views were with regard to this Bill, and not allow it to be read a second time for the purpose of being hereafter opposed.
§ MR. FORBES MACKENZIE
said, that, speaking as an independent Member who last year sat upon the Committee, he was not altogether opposed to the object of the Bill; but nevertheless he thought it defective both in principle and detail. It was said dissent was on the increase in Edinburgh, and that was one of the reasons for reducing the number of ministers of the Established Church, which the promoters of the Bill urged in its favour. He, however, could not recognise the force of that reason, nor could he say that he had much 265 confidence in the securities which were proposed to be taken for the payment of these fifteen ministers; and unless the Bill came out of the Committee very much altered, he should feel bound to oppose it on the third reading.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, he should support the Bill. He examined its provisions while in office, and he highly approved of it. There could not be a greater error than to suppose that its operations could possibly injure the ministers of the Established Church in Scotland; and if the House could be made sensible of the heart-burnings that it was calculated to put a stop to in Scotland, it would ultimately pass the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE CLERK
said, he was in favour of the measure, though he was opposed to many of its details; and he trusted, when the Bill came down from the Committee, the defects would have been expunged. He should resist any attempt to reduce the number of clergymen attached to the Established Church, and he called upon Her Majesty's Ministers to second his exertions in that respect.
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, he only regretted that instead of proposing to reduce the number of clergy from eighteen to fifteen, the Bill did not propose to reduce them to six. It was a great hardship on the inhabitants of Edinburgh to be compelled to contribute to the support of a Church Establishment of which they did not approve. He confessed he could not view the Bill with much favour, for it fell short of the object for the attainment of which it professed to be designed.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that such a Bill as the one now under discussion ought to have been introduced rather by the Government than by a private Member. He would not divide the House on the second reading, but would reserve the privilege of opposing the measure on a future stage, in the event of its not being materially amended in Committee.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
thought the debate should be adjourned till Government could come forward and say whether they could conscientiously support the principle of the Bill. He should be extremely sorry if they did approve of the principle, but if they did the fate of the Bill might then be very different.
§ MR. TUFNELL
approved of the Bill, and trusted Government would give its principle their serious consideration and approval, although they might not be able to coincide with all its details.
§ MR. COWAN
said, if the Government had any regard for the peace of the city of Edinburgh, and the prosperity of the Church of Scotland, they would be anxious for a settlement of this question, and would not oppose the measure. He should like to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—an assurance that the sanction of the Crown would be given to the Bill, otherwise the promoters, who were actuated by the worthiest motives, would not care about proceeding any further with the measure.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that a few nights since he declared, in answer to a question, that the Annuity Tax as well as Ministers' Money in Ireland would be taken into consideration by the Government, with a view to arriving at a satisfactory settlement of the questions. He had repeated that declaration to a deputation which did him the honour to wait on him the other day; and he repeated it now. The question of the Annuity Tax, however, was a grave and difficult one, involving very important principles. He had looked into the subject as carefully as he could, considering the pressure of other engagements, and he was not yet prepared to state, on the part of Government, in what particular mode it could be settled. However, if hon. Gentlemen would allow him to look into the question, and obtain as much information upon it as he could, and as he was endeavouring to do with regard to the Ministers' Money, he would endeavour to arrive at a settlement of this measure at the same time. But if he were asked now to give his assent to this proposition, he must say at once that it involved rights which ought not to be given up hastily and without consideration; and the Queen's consent ought not to be given to a measure which abstracted a great portion of the Crown patronage in reference to the deans of the Royal Chapel, until Government could be satisfied that such a settlement of the question would not only satisfy one particular party, but would give something like satisfaction to all concerned. He would also appeal to the House whether, in the present state of business, and considering the difficulties of the question, which had occupied the attention of Government after Government for twenty years, it was reasonable to ask of him (Mr. Walpole) all of a sudden to decide at once what Government would do with this measure.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
said, he had advised the late Government to give the consent of the Crown to this Bill as it now stood, and 267 the late Government was prepared to adopt it as a settlement of that which was agreed to be a question of vital importance, not only to the city of Edinburgh, but to the Established Church of Scotland generally; and every day lost in its settlement was so much opportunity thrown away in maintaining that Church on its present footing. When it was proposed to send the Bill to a Committee, where the parties would have to undergo an indefinite expense, without any certainty of a definite result, that was a proposition which the citizens of Edinburgh could not agree to. His advice, therefore, to the promoters of the Bill would be, that they should consider the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as a refusal and negative of the principle of the Bill at present. He (Mr. F. Maule) admitted that there was a portion of the clergy of the Established Church opposed to the Bill, but others of them, if they could speak out their mind, would distinctly say that they were in favour of the compromise now offered. The Faculty of Advocates gave notice of a modified opposition to the Bill. They said they would agree to it whenever a settlement could be made which would be satisfactory to the Established Church. But be was afraid that was a qualification which would cause a postponement of any proposition for an indefinite period. The Writers to the Signet, however, were more narrow-minded than their brethren the Advocates on this occasion, and were stronger in their opposition. He regretted that the present opportunity of settling the question was likely to be lost.
§ Bill read 2°.